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France 2017 elections – The left wing primaries


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There is no turning back. Now with a designated champion for the Socialist Party, the five major candidates running for the Presidency are in the starting blocks. Only three of them – Le Pen (far - right), Fillon (right) and Macron (center left), seem capable of making it to the two-person second round. The wild card Mélenchon (far-left) should however not be forgotten, as well as veteran Bayrou (center-right), who has not decided yet whether he will run. Both recent primaries have shown that in France, as elsewhere, the unexpected is likely to become the routine.
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France 2017 elections – The left wing primaries

  1. 1. Episode2: Theleftwingprimaries,thetrue kick-offofthePresidentialcampaign France2017elections inperspective January 30, 2017
  2. 2. © Brunswick 2017 | 2 Benoit Hamon,theradical outsiderof theleftwing primaries,hassurprised everyonebydefeatingManuel Valls,formerPrimeMinister, andArnaudMontebourg, formerMinisterof Economy.A repeatof whatFrançoisFillon didtwomonthsagowhen defeatingNicolasSarkozyand AlainJuppé. Theright-wingprimaries gatheredover4millionvoters butonly2 millionvoters showedupfortheleft-wing primaries,callingintoquestion thereallegitimacyofthe designatedcandidateof the SocialistParty. The decline of the Socialist Party Similarto Bernie Sandersin the USA or Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, Benoit Hamon hasradicalizedthe debate within the Socialist Party:hisutopianvisionhas prevailedover a pragmaticsocial democraticapproach.The unsuccessful policiesof the pastyears,both to decreaseunemploymentor to encourage business, hasfed resentment towards thisapproachand hasmaterializedin the very low turnoutfor the left wing primaries.It couldwell be that Hollande’sdisastrouslyunpopular presidencyhasnot onlybeen fatal tohis own politicalcareerbut could also be fatalto the SocialistParty. Growing populism Francehasnot been left unscathed by the profoundanti-establishment movementsthathavehit the UK and USA – and whichthreatenother European countrieslikeItaly,the Netherlands or even Germany.Hamon’santi-austerity stancehasprobablybeen fed by this trend in the left primariesbut, moving forwardin the Presidentialcampaign, othertrulypopulistcandidates willdraw more benefitsfrom it:Jean-Luc Mélenchonon the far-left orMarineLe Pen on the far-right. Macron, the real winner of a primary that wasn’t his own While the left’s primarydebate was mired in idealistproposals,Emmanuel Macron,former Ministerof Economy who refusedto be partof thatprocess, hascontinued togenerate strong enthusiasm,gatheringthousandsat each of hismeetings.With a liberal- conservativecandidateon hisright and a radical-utopian-socialiston hisleft,not to mention the extremistsof both sides, Macronhasa wide spaceto occupyin the center.Over the pastweeks,he hasbeen extremely smartat successfullyfilling thatgap.There is one question remaining though:will FrançoisBayrou, the historicrepresentativeof the center- right run for the Presidency himselfor announcehissupportfor Fillon,or for Macron?The coming weeks,revealing the final details of themain candidates’ programs,will be critical, andthe French rollercoasteris not over yet. There is no turning back. Now witha designated champion for the Socialist Party, the five major candidates running for the Presidency are inthe starting blocks. Only three of them – Le Pen(far - right), Fillon(right) and Macron (center left), seem capable of making it to the two-person second round. The wildcard Mélenchon(far-left) should howevernot be forgotten, as well as veteran Bayrou (center-right), who has not decidedyet whetherhe willrun. Bothrecent primaries have shown that inFrance, as elsewhere,the unexpectedis likely to become the routine.
  3. 3. Brunswick Group France 2017 elections in perspective Left to right, thecontenders Jean-Luc Mélenchon Yannick Jadot Benoit Hamon Emmanuel Macron François Bayrou* François Fillon Marine Le Pen FAR-LEFT FAR-RIGHTCENTER (*): unclear if he will run himself or support one of the other candidates
  4. 4. Brunswick Group France 2017 elections in perspective A rugbyfan,Hamon,49, began hispoliticalcareerinthe1980s asastudentactivist. He got involved inthe SocialistParty through the Young Socialist Movementof which he became President.Throughout his career, he has dealt with threeparallelpolitical lives:Withinthe SocialistParty (being one of theleaders of its leftwing with Arnaud Montebourg – “les frondeurs”, the rebelliousleadingthesocialist opposition to Hollande’s policyin the second term of his mandate), as an electedofficial (memberof the EuropeanParliament,memberof a local authorityin theGreater Paris Region, and currentlya memberof the Lower House of theFrench Parliament)and as an active part of the Government(as a memberof Martine Aubry’sstaff when she was Ministerof Labor and a Minister himselfat the beginningof Hollande’s mandate, in charge of Social Economy, and later on – although briefly– in charge of Education). Morespending,moreState interventionismandanew Constitution Hisprogram outlinesradical ideassuch asa monthlyuniversalbasicincome of about€750per person,the recruitment of thousandsof new civilservants (includingteachersand policemen),an increaseof civilservants’wages and of the legal minimum wage for all employeesby 10%,and a 32-hour working week. Very unclearwhen it comesto the financingof thosemeasures, heproposes to tax industrialrobots,to fightagainst tax evasionby large multinational companies,to strengthen constraintson stockoptions and toreinforcetaxation on households’assets. He alsoproposesto legalizemarijuana,to cancelthe inter-EUdebtsof Member States,to createa “humanitarianvisa” for refugees,aimedat facilitating immigrationinto Europe. He alsostronglyadvocatesa greener economy,making the energy transition towardsrenewable energies the highest priority. Hamon alsowantsto reshufflethe Frenchinstitutions inorderto narrow the gap between politicians andcitizens and involvethe peoplein the decision making process, creatingde factoa 6th Republic inFrance. Hischallengeinthecampaign will be to avoida completedisasterfor the SocialistParty,after Hollande’s withdrawal.He desperatelyneeds to reunite the left if he wants to avoida humiliating4th positionin the firstround but sofar he hasreceiveda blunt “no” from Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Hamon, the socialist utopian Likelihoodof reachingthe secondround: The5maincontenders RATHER LOW
  5. 5. Brunswick Group France 2017 elections in perspective FrançoisFillon,62,is a career politician,withfourdecadesof experience.Electedthe youngestMPatage27in 1981, hehasheldofficesatalllevelsof thepoliticallandscape,several timesasMinister(incl.Labor andEducation)untilhis appointmentasSarkozy’s PrimeMinister(2007-2012). A right-wingcentrist, he holds free- marketand pro-businessideas and has builta reputationfor beinga cautious but determinedreformer (he carried out two pensionreforms). Claiminghis catholic faithand culture,he is a moderateEuropean (he votedagainst the Maastricht Treaty)and embracesa traditional stance on social issues. Discreetand scandal-free,at least untilthis recent month (seebelow), Fillonhas a style which contrasts with that of the extrovertand buoyantSarkozy. FrançoisFillonadvocates ashock therapyprogramfor the French economyand a pragmaticstanceon foreign affairs.The visionbehind this programis hisalarmist diagnosisof the Frencheconomy,whichhe described back in 2007asbeing “bankrupt”. With “liberationof the economy”at the top of hisprogram,Fillonadvocates aprofound changeof the businessenvironment, basedon increasedflexibility of thelabor market and significanttax breaksfor companies. In-depthreformoftheFrench Stateandpro-business measures Hiskey measureto trigger a “shockof competitiveness” isto end France’s emblematic35-hourworkweek. From a tax perspective, Fillonhascommittedto a reductionof businesstaxationby as muchas€50bn startingin January2018. Thisincludescutsin corporatecharges on wages (40bn €) and a lowering of the corporatetax rate (10bn€) from its currentlevel –33.3%–toaround25%,a rate thatis muchcloserto the EU average.In addition, theFrench“ISF”,or “SolidarityTax on Wealth,”wouldbe scrappedin order to encourage investmentsin SMEs.He isbetting that he will boostthe economyin the firsttwo yearsof hismandate by focusingon businesses ratherthan householdsand pushingthroughcorporatetax relief. In order to restoreFrance’spublic financesand structuralgrowth,Fillon’s ambitionis to completea deep and radicalstatereform.To do so,he proposesa cutof 100billioneurosin publicexpendituresover the next 5 years. Hisflagship proposalis to cut 500,000publicjobs within5 years (roughly a10%cut).In the same vein,he alsowishesto align the pensionstatusof publicsectorworkerswiththatof private sectorworkersby pushingback the retirement age from 62to 65. A pragmaticforeignaffairs policy Fillonhasnot been veryforthcomingon foreign policy sofar.Defending a “Europe of nationsto ensure sovereignty”:Fillon doesnot want more integrationat large in Europeand believesthatthe powers of the EuropeanCouncilshould be increasedvs.the EuropeanCommission. He believesthatthe revivalof the Franco-Germanrelationship dependson France’sabilityto reform itselfand thereforeto regain economiccredibility in the eyes of itsGerman partner. Fillon advocatesdialoguewith Russia whichhe believesisthe onlyway to put an end to the war in Syria and defeatISIS. Forhim, isolatingRussiacouldbe damagingnot onlyfor French interestsbut alsoputs global balanceat risk. Incontrast,Fillon hasa muchstronger stanceagainst China:he believesthere shouldbe clearerrulesof reciprocitybetween China and Europeon trade. Hischallengeswill be to overcome three key obstacles: Perceptionof his program,Macronand ethics.  Gatheringlarge supportfor implementing hisradical reforms and demonstratingthattheseare financially realistic willbe critical. Since hisvictoryat the right-wing primaries lastNovember,Fillonhas been violentlyattackedby many due to his“ultra-conservatism”,“putting the French social welfare system at stake”.  The rise of Emmanuel Macronis a real threatfor Fillonas theyare both fightingto attract centrist voters.  Fillon, whohasalwayspromotedhigh ethicalstandards,is facinga scandal followingrevelationsby the satirical weeklyLe CanardEnchaîné thathis wife might havebeen employedashis parliamentaryassistantwithoutdoing any properwork.Thoseallegations havepromptedFrance's financial prosecutorto open a preliminary investigation.Maybe a fatalblow to hiscandidacy. Fillon, theconservative marathon-runner Likelihoodof reachingthe secondround: The5maincontenders RATHER HIGH
  6. 6. Brunswick Group France 2017 elections in perspective FormeradvisortoPresident Hollande(2012-2014)and formerMinisterof Economy andFinance(2014-2016), EmmanuelMacron,39,is the freshyoungfacein the Presidentialelectionrace. A graduate of the eliteFrenchschool ENA (EcoleNationale d’Administration),Macron joinedthe politicalgame threeyears ago, after having worked as an investment bankerat Rothschildin Paris. As Ministerof Economy, Macron attracted mainstreamattentionwith the “Loi Macron”,a billaiming at revivingthe Frencheconomyby shaking up an over-regulated economy, fightingcorporatism and promoting targetedbusiness-friendly policies.Key measuresinclude loosening Sunday-tradingrules, deregulatingcertain professionssuch as notaries and liberalizingthe Frenchinter-citycoach industryto foster competitionwith trains. Sincehe steppeddown from the governmentin August 2016,Macron has taken a clear anti-systemstance, refusingthe traditionallogic of parties, and running independently by founding« En Marche! » (« Moving on! ») – his own party, which is « neitheron the right,noron the left ». At the coreof « En Marche! », is Macron’s pledge to regenerate the political landscape:the belief thatpoliticsshould not be a professionper se but a limited- in-time commitment whichcould be embracedby any Frenchcitizenat some pointin time in their life.Macron’sfresh trans-partisanapproachto politics combinedwith great communication skills haveelectrified thecampaign:he hasunexpectedlyraisedgreat enthusiasm– firstin Paris andthen throughoutthe country– becomingthe thirdman of the election.Macronis a center-leftcandidateand a social-liberal reformist.He is perceived asa pro- business candidateand hasgained supportfrom a number of French business leaders. Macronhas not yet presenteda proper electoralprogram.However he has unveileda range of key proposalsduring campaignspeeches,as well asin hisbook “Revolution” published inNovember 2016. Macron’scentral idea is the urgencyto « unblock France» by dealing with the rootcausesof the situationand tacklingthem at the core. Unblockingthelabormarket, fosteringinnovationand entrepreneurship,and reinforcingsovereigntyat Europeanlevel Reaffirming« labor value »: allowingall Frenchcitizensto « live by their work » (vs.a cultureof assistance)is one of Macron’smajorambitions. Sofar,he showcasedonly one key reform,whichis to decreasewages’ taxationfor the lowest-paidworkers. Reforming the labormarket for more « flexicurity » – a combinationof flexibilityfor businesses andsecurityfor workers:Macronwantsto putan end to the 35-hour workweekwhichhe considersa brake to Frenchbusinesses’ competitiveness. He proposes to modulatethe number of workinghours throughnegotiationsat corporatelevel. At the sametime, he advocatesa profoundreform of continuouslearning soas to reinforceworkers’rightsand give them adaptabilityto new jobs throughouttheir work life. Macronalsowantsto foster entrepreneurshipthroughfurther administrativesimplification– a huge potential task hehasnot clarifiedyet. Reshapingthe Frencheducationsystem, whichfailsto provideequal opportunitiesfor successis alsoan objectiveforhim. Reforming the system includesgiving more autonomy to schoolsand promotingapprenticeship. Finally, heproposes to rebuildEurope’s sovereignty, focusingon fivepriorities: reinforcesecurity, completethe monetaryunion,boostforeign trade, acceleratethe ecologicaltransitionand join the digital economy. Inparticular, Macroninsistson reinforcingEurope’s security shieldto protect itsborders. Hischallengeinthecampaign will be to translatehispopularityinto actualvotesand for thathe wouldneed to:  Buildand showcasea clearand strong program,demonstratingthathe has broadenough shoulders tobecome President,  Provethathe hasthe nation-widebase to win the legislativeelections,as havinga majority inParliamentiskey to being able to conductreforms,  Preservehistrans-partisanapproach by carefullymanaging hissupporters from the SocialistParty. Macron, the trans-partisan meteor Likelihoodof reachingthe secondround: The5maincontenders RATHER HIGH
  7. 7. Brunswick Group France 2017 elections in perspective MarineLePen’s NationalFront is France’sleadingpartyby voteswiththehighestscorein twoofthelastnational elections,in2014 (European elections)andagainin2015 (localregionalelections). This year, nearlyall the recentpolls – for what theyare worth – place her ahead in the Presidentialelection race and systematically qualifiedfor the second round. Shefinishedthird in the previousPresidentialelections, in 2012, with 18% of the vote. Sheis convinced2017will be a different story. The turningpoint in her fast track politicalcareer came whenshe becamethe leaderof the National Front in 2011.Sincethen,she has beenconsistently workingon further broadeningher electoralbase, by reaching out to the middle classes,the joblessand those forgotten by the eliteand opposed to the fast train of liberalismand globalization. Way beforeTrump and the Brexiters,she has promoted populistthemeswhich resonate with a vast spectrumof voters, riding on theirfears of a gloomy futureor theircontemptfor the “Europeanbureaucracy.”White- collar voters, left or right, today openlyexpresssupport, something theywould not have dared to even whisperyears ago. Marine Le Pen has worked hard to distanceherselffrom the outrageous discourse and radical xenophobicstances of the“old” National Front. Theclimax of this sanitizationcampaign was reached in 2015when she excludedher own father, Jean-MarieLe Pen, founder and Honorary President ofthe party, from theParty’s executivebureau. MarineLe Pen todaycoastson this populistrhetoric and polishedtone. She for instancedenies being anti-Muslim and choosesto speakaboutFrench identityand Christianroots,even if at the core,her stanceson Islam,immigration and integrationof foreignersremain as toughasher father’s.She alsoblursthe lineson major socialissues whileopenly chasingLGBTsupport, although avast majorityof the Party’score supporters arestillstrongly pro-lifeand anti-same sex marriage. Thisvastprocessof transformation, whichmany arguehasbeen more cosmeticthana deep reboot,comesat a huge cost.From the inside, theNational Front istorn in two.Tensionsare high between Marine’scoreteam and the conservativeold guard,led by Marine’s young niece,MarionMaréchalLe Pen. Anti-immigration, protectionismandsoftFrexit Three monthsawayfrom the firstround, MarineLe Pen is preparingforthe final battle.A formidablespeaker, media savvy,she isnot intimidatedby any opponentand remainsin full controlof her image.She is weak and uneducated on economic issues butunshakableon thoseissuesin debates.Her detailed electoralprogramwill be revealedon February4th but no real surpriseis expected:the main focuswill be on social issuesin favorof middleclasses, pensionersand SMEs,with an increaseof the minimal wage and a pensionage thresholdat 60 years.She claimsthe tax systemwill be reviewedfor fairnessand to prefer Frenchnationalsfor jobsand socialbenefits.Marine alsocleverly wrapsher anti-globalizationmantra up in a more moderateprotectionismbut maintainsthatthe Schengen agreement (no border control between the EU Member Statesbut the UK and Ireland) shouldbe torpedoedand thattaxationof importsshouldbe increased.Finally,her claimsof abandoningthe Eurohavealso been rephrasedinto a strangedual approach, wherebotha new domestic currencyshould coexistwith the Euro, the latterbeing confinedforthe export business of major companies. Hermainchallengelieswithin the mechanics of theFrenchelectoralsystem itself.Indeed, one cannotforgetthat more than50% of the nationalvotesare needed to be electedPresident,given the two-roundsystemfor the elections.This remainsa veryhigh bar for Marine Le Pen. Oppositionand detestationof her ideasremain deeplyrootedin the nation and sofar all partiesleft and right have alwaysmaneuveredtogether to isolate the National Frontin the final round.Last year duringthe regional elections,her Partycame out on top in the firstround in many regions,sometimesby scores averaging40%,but wasdefeatedin all regionsin the secondround.MarineLe Pen’s programhasbeen embellishedand window dressed onmany fundamental issuesbut it remainsextreme on many pointsand economicallyunrealistic.Can the great communicatorsell it to the Frenchthistime? Le Pen, theestablished far- right populist Likelihoodof reachingthe secondround: The5maincontenders HIGH
  8. 8. Brunswick Group France 2017 elections in perspective Jean-LucMélenchon,65, candidateof thefar-left,is a veteranpoliticianwithover fourdecadesofpolitical experience. He has held officesas Senator, Ministerof Professional Educationin Lionel Jospin’s socialist government, and has beena Memberof the EuropeanParliamentsince2009. A memberof the Socialist Party for more than 30 years, where he embodied theextremeleft-wingof the party, he broke free in 2008and foundedhis own leftistparty, called “Parti de Gauche”, inspiredby the German“Die Linke” movement. Having alreadyrun in the 2012 presidentialelection,in which he endedup in 4th place with 11% of the votes, he is runningfor the second time,with a newlycreated political movement called“La France insoumise”(“The rebelliousFrance”), also supportedby the Communist Party. He embodiesthe anti-businessand anti- capitalistleft and appealsto the “left of the left” electorate.He hasbeen one of the fiercestopponentsof Hollande’s presidencyaswell as a strong detractor of Le Pen, whom he neverthelessfailedto beat in the 2012general election, when theyfacedeachotherin the same constituency. Sincehe votedagainstthe EuropeanLisbontreatyin the 2005 referendum,he hasbeen tirelessly fightingthe mechanicsof the European Union,and pleadingfor a reinforcement of nationalsovereignty, especiallyon currencyissues.He hasin particular been a staunchcriticof Angela Merkel’s conservativepolicies. Herecently convertedto ecologist ideas.Describedas a « populist» by hisopponents,he is famous forhisfiery rhetoric. Mélenchonhaslauncheda large participativeconsultationto buildhis programwhichisso farlargelyinspired by his2012program. A new participativeRepublic,an anti-Europeanstanceandthe reinforcementof theWelfare State The key proposals he hasunveiledsofar are:  Establishmentof a 6th Republic which wouldbe more « participative» includingsetting upof the right for citizensto dismiss anelected representative,  Democratic refundingof the European treaties,whichcouldultimatelyleadto exiting Francefrom Europeantreaties, and potentiallyfrom NATO,  Cancellationof free tradeagreements (TAFTA, CETA),  More wealthredistributionwith increaseof the net minimum wage at €1,300/monthand increaseof the publicsectorwage,  Rescindmentof the recentlyadopted « Labor Law », creationof a 32-hour working week, retirement age at 60,  Investmentin energy transitionwith a progressiveexit of nuclearenergy and establishmentof a « green rule » to protectnaturalresourceseven if this resultsin a higherdeficit,  Separationbetween retail banksand investmentbanks. Hismainchallengewill be to unite a wide leftspectrumto qualifyfor the secondround.He benefits from the supportof the CommunistParty,but will alsohaveto rallythe votesof the smaller far-leftcandidates (NathalieArtaud and PhilippePoutou)aswell asof the green candidate(Yannick Jadot). With Hamon’sprogramvery closeto his, Mélenchonwill alsoneed to accelerate the tone and formatof hiscampaignto differentiatehimselfand ultimately defeatthe SocialistParty’s candidate. Mélenchon, theextreme leftist rabble-rouser Likelihoodof reachingthe secondround: The5maincontenders RATHER LOW
  9. 9. Brunswick Group France 2017 elections in perspective Upcoming electoral milestones Getting a majority in Parliament willbe the first headache for the newlyelected President. It needs remembering that immediately after the Presidential election(two rounds on April23rd and May 7th), the electionsfor the Lower House of the Parliament (Assemblée nationale) willbe organized (two more rounds onJune 11th and 18th). These willeither confirm a true mandate for the newlyelected President by giving him a fullmajority or restricting his power witha narrow majority, or, worst case scenario, no majority at all. Beginning of the Parliamentrecess Presidential election (two rounds) Appointment of the Government General elections (members of the Lower House of Parliament) Renewal of half of the Senate (Upper House of Parliament) End of February: April 23, 2017 and May 7, 2017: Mid May 2017: June 11 and 18, 2017: September 24, 2017:
  10. 10. Brunswick Group France 2017 elections in perspective Brunswick Group Brunswick is an advisory firm specializingin critical issues and corporate relations. A global partnershipwith 23 officesin 14 countries.Foundedin 1987,Brunswick hasgrown organically,operatingasa single profitcenter – allowingus to respondseamlesslyto our clients’needs, wherever theyare in the world. The today30 strongteam in Paris was initially set upin 2000and hasbeen advisingboth global and localclientsto positionthem on the Frenchmarketat all levelsand with all typesof stakeholders. For more information contact JérômeBiscay Partner,HeadofOffice,Paris NicolasBouvier Partner BenoîtGrange Partner NathalieBaudon Director DomitilleHarb Associate BrunswickGroup 69 BoulevardHaussmann 75008Paris France + 331 53 96 83 83